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By Eva Pasco, author of "Underlying Notes"


FishpondTilt-a-Whirl, Flying ScooterThe Whip--just a smattering of exciting rides at Crescent Park that pinned you to your seat with centrifugal force. Crescent Park was the "Coney Island of New England." Birthed in 1886 to amuse, the park was built around the 400 foot Bullocks Point Dock along the shores of Riverside, Rhode Island.  Construction of The Carousel was commissioned to lure people off the beaches, much to their amusement.  Over the years the park changed ownership and during the war (1941-1945), much of its structures were in disrepair and decay. In 1951, Crescent Park was revived in the spirit of amusement, such that it flourished in the 50s and 60s. Penny Arcade, Alhambra Ballroom, Shore Dinner I come!

Nearly every Sixties summer Sunday my dad drove us to Crescent Park--not my choice, but my sister's.  Polar opposites, she never got her fill of thrills on the adult rides my father accompanied her on, whereas I was always too chicken to take a ride on the wild side.  The Whip and Dodge Ems were more my speed. I did ride the Ferris Wheel with my sister who tormented me by rocking the cradle if we were stuck at the top during ticket collection.  I bobbed up and down on the Merry-Go-Round horses inside The Carousel, but never considered tossing metal rings into the clown's gaping mouth, let alone going for the brass one.
I took my chances inside the dark and mysterious Penny Arcade, always fascinated by the robotic fortune teller sitting inside a glass booth.  For a quarter, I snatched my mass-produced fortune while the snaggletooth’s eyes glared at me.  Strolling by the concession stands, one soaked up enough oil fumes from the fries and dough boys, while inhaling the cloying sweetness of cotton candy which my sister and I sometimes shared, but never finished.  My favorite stand was the Fish Pond where you scooped a fish into your net and won the prize whose number corresponded with the number at the bottom of your fish.  I remember walking away with a Kewpie doll on a stick.  Gee, I wonder how much that cost my dad...
Though my mother and I were not totally amused by spending our Sunday afternoon at the park, all of us enjoyed eating clam cakes and chowder at the Shore Dinner Hall, reminiscent of a big mess hall.  Sitting on a bench along a cafeteria table, the sea air stirred our appetite for typical New England fare.  Although the food was delicious, I now wonder how much of the chowder was flavored with cigarette ashes rumored to flavor the pot.
Changing tastes in amusement, financial problems, and pollution contributed to the death of Crescent Park in 1979.  By then the Alhambra Ballroom perished in a fire, and the park had that rundown look. However, The Carousel was saved and still goes round and round as do the nostalgic memories of a bygone era when families stuck together and took a Sunday drive to some enchanting or adventurous destination.


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